Having friends over to watch a movie? Hosting a holiday dinner? Planning a BBQ? Party planning also includes pet planning.
Here are some things to consider and plan for before inviting company to your home:
- Are the guests planning on bringing their own dogs?
- How well does your pet handle introductions to new people or groups of people?
- Is your pup protective of their space? Does he tend to guard any particular family members?
- What rules do you want to be put in place for your dog? For example, will guests be allowed to feed or play with your dog?
- Most of all, is my dog ready for this??? Am I ready for this?
Even the most well-behaved dogs may be both excited and anxious about having company in ‘their house,” and can have many different reactions to visitors. Here a few tips to help ensure that both your guests and your pup have a great time at your event:
1. Know your dog’s temperament. If your pup gets skittish around people or other pets, know that they will not do well in large groups. Limit their time and exposure to a small group environment and build up to larger events over time if their temperament allows you to do so. If your dog isn’t social with other dogs, let your guests know in advance so they know to leave their own pups at home. You should also remember that they may be confused and anxious from the party noises, and barking or destructive tendencies may be an issue. Prepare your dog as much as you can ahead of time with the skills needed to succeed during the visit.
2. Know your guests. If you KNOW attendees do not like dogs, uninvite them…. just kidding! As the host, it’s your responsibility to be aware of your guest’s fears and to accommodate them during their visit as best as possible. Your pet will also pick up on your guest’s reactions, and may react differently as a result. Plan ahead in advance to ensure that you have options for your pet to keep them comfortable during your event. Some dogs may do well confined to a portion of the house, crate, or other safe place. Your pup may have more fun if they are at a trusted friend’s house during the event. Plan accordingly so that everyone is comfortable during your guest’s visit.
3. Set boundaries. If Fido will be joining the party, make sure you have a way of letting guests know the ground rules for your pet. Sticky notes are my best friend (besides my pet) and are posted on the front door and other locations in the house during the party. Focus on important party events (in the eyes of your dog): Guests entering the party, meal time/food, pets on furniture or in certain rooms, or any general pet etiquette. For example, leave a note on the door if you want guests to knock before entering the house so your dog doesn’t escape. Think about your pet etiquette from the perspective of your guests, create a plan and communicate it.
4. Plan ahead: Practice and prepare for your plan. Your dog can’t read your mind, so unless he/she knows the rules and you have PRACTICED, things may go sideways. Establish rules and boundaries for your dog, and train them to follow them at all time. Make sure you have some toys and treats ready to keep your dog occupied during your event. Give these to your pet during meals or when they are getting anxious. Most importantly: practice. Good pet etiquette does not come naturally to dogs or humans. You have to plan, train and practice well in advance of guests arriving.
5. Reward good behavior (and the absence of bad behavior!) Is Fido behaving well? Tell them with belly rubs, pats, and TREATS. When rewarding your dog for good behavior, it’s best to take a treat and break it up; you have just turned into a treat machine; treat size does not matter, quantity does. Be sure to use your “A” treat. This is not a treat they get every day and like, these are treats they LOVE. Pets will be more responsive to your commands if they KNOW the treat is delish and they will get several at a time. For example, when guests visit my home, I like to have 2 inch pieces of beef trachea stuffed with yogurt, veggies, dog-friendly peanut butter, and dog food ready in the freezer, because I know that these treats will keep my pup busy for 30+ minutes. Another great option is to soak kibble in dog-friendly chicken broth and stuff the trachea and seal the ends with yogurt or peanut butter, then pop it in the freezer. Not only is it a great treat to feed your dog, but it keeps them busy and helps reduce anxiety!
The most important thing to remember is that your pet is family, and your home is their home. If you have a family member with special dietary needs, you would accommodate that in your meal planning. In the same way, it’s important to recognize that your dog is a family member with special needs as well, and it’s your responsibility to ensure that both you and they are ready for company.
We hope these tips are helpful to you! If you try any of them, we want to know how it worked out! Share your own tips in the comments below!